Beware: Black Friday is coming. What was once a one-day in-store shopping spree has become a week (or even month!) shopping marathon. The introduction of Cyber Monday and the rise of online shopping has led deal-seekers to make online purchases as they prepare for the holiday season.
In 2016, Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday online sales came in at $12.8 billion, a 15.2% bump from the same period in 2015.Cyber Monday made $3.45 billion in sales in 2016, making it the biggest day ever in U.S. e-commerce history. Almost 40% of sales on what was a brick-and-mortar shopping weekend occurred on a mobile device.
This year, 69% of Americans plan to shop over Thanksgiving weekend, and 84% of this year’s holiday shoppers will be shopping online, according to data from PricewaterhouseCoopers’ 2017 Holiday Outlook.
In all, Americans are expected to spend about $680 billion this holiday season, marking a 3.6 percent to 4 percent increase from last year’s $655.8 billion, according to estimates released by the National Retail Federation. Those figures are in line with last year’s 3.6 percent growth in holiday spending.
Before the sales days hit, businesses need to make sure their websites are ready, for the traffic of shoppers and the possibility of cyber-attack.
Holiday sales can bring a big surge of traffic to a website, so owners should ensure their sites can handle it. There are numerous sites that will simulate a traffic test for any URL, such as this one. You should consider contacting the web hosting provider and inquiring about the traffic limitations and cost of an upgraded server. Or, if you use Content Delivery Network (CDN), contact the provider to ensure they’ve planned for the increased traffic.
Unfortunately, getting a site ready for shopper traffic isn’t the only thing to prepare for. While this rise in shoppers is a boon for retailers and the economy, it comes with a certain risk. Cyber hackers know to follow the money, and as in years past, experts expect an increase in cyber-attacks this week. Some are predicting as many as 50 million global fraud attempts will occur in the next week as scammers look to capitalize on a busy shopping period to slip past fraud filters. Hackers have realized that by targeting busy shopping periods, it’s easier to hide their activity from e-commerce filters.
Due to consumer’s new shopping patterns, which continue up until Christmas itself, it’s difficult for retailers to notice the attacks have happened. A report from Verizon found it took a majority of businesses they studied two weeks or more to recognize that a crime occurred. In contrast, the holiday shopping period lasts for only eight weeks. More and more customers’ data may be at risk if it takes too long to identify that an attack has occurred.
Before the sales begin, monitor for malicious and unintentional changes affecting your network, with a solid Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) solution that would flag outdated versions of software and firmware currently running on your assets that may pose security vulnerabilities. This will address threats and provide time for risk mitigation before the big crunch on Cyber Monday.
If you’re planning on being a shopper yourself during the holiday season, take a few precautions to keep your data safe. Just like hackers start working overtime over the holidays, so will scammers looking to target consumers individually.
Only deal with retail companies you trust. Understand how they operate. More importantly, keep in mind that every entity can be spoofed in email or online.
Look for some sort of “Safe Shopping” badge on the site that shows they’re looking out for your safety
Remember to use a unique password for every online account. If you reuse passwords and the password file of the company with the least secure infrastructure is compromised, then your user ID and password combination are the keys to all your other accounts, especially for those that lack two-factor authentication.
Make sure the website is using HTTPS in the URL. This ensures that the data transferred between the web browser and the website is encrypted.
With the right precautions, you can walk away from Black Friday with great deals – and your data still protected.